Leading candidates covered in mud

As if there were no real issues to talk about, the GOP primary races in Kansas for U.S. Senate and Congress have turned into ugly slugfests.

Forget "Obama" and "Pelosi" as the summer's baddest villains.

Forget Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment ("Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican").

When it comes to competing for the same job, Kansas Republicans are proving themselves neither mild nor well-mannered.

It's especially disappointing in the cases of Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, and Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, both seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. As members of the Kansas delegation for more than a dozen years with very similar voting records, they should be capable of more collegiality than they, and particularly their ads, are showing voters.

Instead, we're being subjected to a series of increasingly lame attempts by each congressman to portray the other as insufficiently conservative on taxes, immigration, terrorism, abortion and more. Some of the charges are ridiculous — Tiahrt not a real Kansan? Moran pro-terrorist rights but not pro-life? —or based on moldy old procedural votes. Their air war on TV and radio in much of Kansas is straining patience and credulity. It's also leaving Republican voters to wonder what either has actually accomplished as a congressman to merit a promotion.

At least 4th Congressional District rivals Mike Pompeo and Wink Hartman are grappling over subjects that might matter to voters — the former's past creation of jobs in Mexico when he was Thayer Aerospace's CEO and the latter's dubious claims to have lived in Kansas and only vacationed in Florida, even though he declared his Florida home to be his primary residence. But in the five-candidate GOP race to succeed Tiahrt, the front-runners have taken a nasty turn toward the negative, with Pompeo's latest ads calling Hartman a liar and Hartman following up a clean-campaign pledge by misusing a Pompeo quote about Wichita's work force. In the process, both candidates end up looking bad — and as if either would fit right into Washington, D.C.

Especially at a time when so many Kansans have more bills than income to pay them, the wasteful spending for these ads seems offensive and out of step. Unfortunately, the worst ads may not come until closer to the Aug. 3 primary, timed so that opponents have no opportunity to respond.

Voters aren't so naive as to expect no negative advertising at all. And there are strategic reasons for the campaigns of Tiahrt, Moran, Pompeo and Hartman to have gone off topic and into the mud in their advertising.

But all four candidates are getting covered in the stuff.